The outdoor sculpture exhibition in Autumn at Chatsworth

We are frequent visitors to Chatsworth in Derbyshire. We love this part of the world and Chatsworth has so many captivating features, locations and of course places to stay in all the villages encompassed by the Duke of Devonshire’s Estate. On this occasion we spent a few days staying at one of our favourite places and taking in the “Sculpture Outdoors” Exhibition with the added benefit of amazing Autumn colours boosted by fabulous sunny weather.

There have been many Sculpture exhibitions in the garden but this one combines contemporary and classical works in the Chatsworth collection positioned around the stunning Capability Brown landscape of the Chatsworth garden.

The guide literature suggests that this exhibition “shines a spotlight on art and nature through the creation of ‘viewpoints’; points of interest on the Duke and Duchess’ favourite walks that takes the visitor to new corners of the garden and offers familiar favourites from a new perspective”.
The sculpture collection features many of the leading lights of post-war sculpture such as Antony Gormley, Elisabeth Frink, Allen Jones, Angela Conner, Michael Craig-Martin, Nic Fiddian-Green, William Turnbull, Simon Thomas, David Nash, Richard Long, Gary Breeze and Barry Flanagan, and some pieces rarely seen in public. As the literature tells us “The exhibits have been positioned in response to the landscape; the garden being a sculpture itself having been shaped, built, planted and hewn from the Derbyshire landscape”. As part of the exhibition our 2018 artist-in-residence, Linder Sterling, has also created a temporary installation especially for the garden, called “Bower of Bliss”.

The exhibits are situated around the garden and in our case it is an intriguing and captivating way of revisiting some areas and exploring new areas , from “Flora” in her temple near the house and visitors shop, through the landscaped lawns, along the cascade, along pathways to the Ring Pond, the Canal Pond and Broad Walk, The Rockery, the Hundred steps with the view of the maze, the Grotto Pond, Paines Bridge, Pinetum, Summer House, Greenhouses and Kitchen Gardens, and the Rose Garden.

In the area of the Rose Garden there are columns topped with ball finials, sandstone busts and marble sculptures create walkways through the rose beds. The classic figures stare down from the roof of the greenhouse. The columns and busts were formerly part of the house, but these were removed and relocated to the garden when corridors replaced colonnades.
The bronze Figure of a Man by William Turnbull has been moved to replace a damaged column, it now stands between lead statues of Samson to the west and Pan to the east.
The Pinetum is collection of trees gathered in the early 19th century by the 6th Duke and his head gardener Joseph Paxton, making these trees nearly 200 years old. Most of these species had never been seen in the UK before. To the north, blackened shapes rise among the trees.David Nash carved and charred two fallen oaks from the Sussex Downs to make Forms that Grow in the Night. The oaks were brought to the Pinetum in 2009 where they were charred again

To the south the garden rolls away into the Old Park which is A Site of Special Scientific Interest. (S.S.S.I.). Grazed by deer and sheep the Old Park contains 500-year-old trees, rare creatures and fungi and is protected land that visitors can view, admire, but not enter.

In the area of the Grotto Pond is Michael Craig-Martin’s High Heel which is placed to the south, whilst on the northern edge of the pond is Barry Flanagan’s The Drummer. The guide books tells us that “Craig-Martin is a teacher, fostering and encouraging future talent. Flanagan was described as an ‘unworldly, bohemian figure’. He once went in search of the Loch Ness monster.
To the east, the Grotto stands above the water. The lower building was created in the 1790s for Duchess Georgiana ‘Empress of Fashion’. It was lined with copper crystals apparently to honour her love of minerals.

The Rockery was created as another playground and souvenir for the 6th Duke and the 19th century designer was apparently inspired by the Alps to create something intriguing using natural materials. The rockery has recently been expanded and replanted by garden designer, Tom Stuart-Smith. The sculptures in this area include “Learning to be I” by Antony Gormley. Nearby, the Ring Pond, which is one of several ponds that survive from the 1st Duke’s garden, includes a lead duck fountain originally installed in 1693. The guide book also tells us that12 stone heads or “herms” dating from the 1700s stand on ceremony around the pond and along the footpath.

To the west the landscape of rolling hills, clumps of trees, a river, and a bridge were all “man-made”, being designed and sculpted to mimic nature by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.
The Broad Walk runs from north to south, with Flora in the north and the so-called ‘Blanche’s Vase’ to the south. The guide book tells us that the vase is inscribed in memory of Blanche Cavendish, Countess of Burlington and beloved niece of the 6th Duke of Devonshire, who died at just 29 in 1840. Despite her early demise, Blanche was mother to five children during her marriage to the 7th Duke.

A Greek sculpture of the horse belonging to moon goddess Selene inspired the career of sculptor Nic Fiddian-Green. The horse at the south end of the Canal Pond represents the strong connections between the family, estate and horses. The guide book also tells us that Selene was in love with Endymion, and his statue can be found in the Sculpture gallery.

Here are two lists of the sculptures featured in this years exhibition, one classic and one contemporary, but as you will see from the map, they are cleverly mixed around the landscape. Click on the list and the map to enlarge.

Our visit was made all the more magical by the presence of the fabulous Autumn colours in the trees, lit by a bright Autumn sun in a wonderful blue sky. A lucky time to visit and the reason why the camera was kept busy capturing some great images.

So here’s my selection of images from our walk around this stunning place. Please enjoy the slideshow (ideally on a big screen) by clicking on the image below and please feel free to provide some comments, especially if you have visited, or are planning to visit, Chatsworth.



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